The IRS “Scandal” Was A Set-Up

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Campaign for America's Future Blog

The IRS “Scandal” Was A Set-Up

I have been writing about the so-called IRS “scandal.” It turns out the whole thing was a set-up from the start. Republicans told the Inspector General to make it look like only conservative groups received scrutiny from the IRS, but all groups received the normal scrutiny. And no one was “targeted” for “extra scrutiny.”

In the post The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives I noted that the original IG report only focused on the use of names like “Tea Party” and did not say if “progressive”-sounding names were checked.

According to the report, the swamped IRS group involved in this came up with ways – “criteria” – to identify groups that really needed to be checked further because it was possible they might be engaged in the kind of political activity that would exclude them from getting the special tax status. (The rules for what constitutes political activity that would keep a group for getting special tax status are, to say the least, not clear. See the P.S. below.) Some groups were chosen to receive the required scrutiny because they had “political-sounding” names. Some of the “political-sounding names” included the words “tea party.” Others included “We the People” and “Take Back the Country.” (The inspector general’s report does not disclose if or which other “political sounding names” were also used as criteria.)

And now we know that groups with “liberal-sounding names” were also checked. NY Times, Documents Show Liberals in I.R.S. Dragnet,

The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.

The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny.

Again, the whole scandal was because the name “Tea Party” was one of the names used to identify potential political groups, meaning they should not get special tax status. “The inspector general’s report does not disclose if or which other “political sounding names” were also used as criteria.” But what really happened was that all groups applying for special tax status are supposed to be checked. The IRS was swamped with applicants after Citizens United, and underfunded, so they had to let some groups off from the usual scrutiny, and came up with shortcuts to look for potential political groups that should not receive the special tax status. That’s the whole “scandal” — not that some groups received “extra” scrutiny or were “targeted” but that some groups didn’t receive normal scrutiny while political-sounding groups got the normal scrutiny.

Here is why the inspector general’s report did not disclose whether other groups were scrutinized (never say “targeted.”):

The Hill: IG: Audit of IRS actions limited to Tea Party groups at GOP request

The Treasury inspector general whose report helped drive the IRS targeting controversy says it limited its examination to conservative groups because of a request from House Republicans.

A spokesman for Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, said they were asked – by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) – “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”

Got that? Republicans told the IG to limit it to conservaitve sounding names, and then when the IG report only mentioned conservative-sounding names, they blasted out this “scandal” to the media.

It was a set-up from the start. And the media completely fell for it. If you hear anyone say that “the IRS targeted conservatives” please let them know this is not what happened — not at all.

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is a contributing blogger for the Campaign for America's Future.

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